It is hard to imagine that French ballet would really take off without constant patronage, funding and financial support of King of France Louis XIV called The Sun King. People may view his life and policies negatively but we do not intend to go into that in a simple blog post. There is just one thing we know for sure – Louis loved ballet and ballet dancing.
The Sun King frequently danced in court ballets during the early half of his reign. He danced four parts in 3 of Molière’s comédies-ballets. When Louis danced at court ballets, his performances were accompanied by majestic music by Jean-Baptiste Lully and lyrics that expressed royal power and benevolence of the king. Louis danced as long as he could until he gained weight and could not perform anymore.
Philippe Beaussant the most famous expert on French baroque music created a biography of Jean-Baptiste Lully which served as the basis of the film Le Roi Danse (The King Is Dancing). In the year 2000, Belgian director Gérard Corbiau made a beautiful film which is a must see for any ballet lover and anybody who would like to learn more about history of ballet. This extravagant and this lavish costume drama depicts the rise of the Sun King through the eyes of the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. King’s power and growing influence are presented through the elaborate ballet dance routines.
It took several years for this film to get the English titles, so now it is available to English-speaking audience as well as French. Here is an extract that we found for you. It is in French but it shows some of the best dances in the movie and the birth of the official French ballet.
It is impossible to imagine modern or classical ballet dance without entrechat. So what is entrechat in ballet moves, anyways? Basically, it is a step of beating in which a ballet dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind each other. The dancer usually jumps from the fifth position and lands back in the fifth position. We count entrechats moves from two to ten according to the number of crossings required and counting each crossing as two movements, one by each leg. For example, in an entrechat quatre each leg makes two distinct movements.
There are two classes of entrechats in ballet dancing: even-numbered and odd-numbered. The even-numbered entrechats, or those which land on two feet: deux, quatre, six, huit and dix (2,4,6,8,10). The odd-numbered entrechats, or those which land on one foot: trois, cinq, sept and neuf (3,5,7,9).
For example: in an entrechat-quatre starting from fifth position, right foot front, the dancer will jump crossing legs and beating first the right heel on the back of the left heel, then at the front of the left heel, landing in the same starting position.
Young ballerina who performed first in history of ballet entrechat quatre was magnificent dancer Marie Camargo. She performed it during her debut at the Paris Opera with the ballet Les Caracteres de la Danse in 1726. It brought Marie Camargo fame and fortune. And, no doubt she deserved it: after all at those times the standard women’s ballet shoes looked differently. These were not ballet slippers or pointe shoes as we know them. Ballerinas danced in the conventional shoes that had heels!
In a sample YouTube video the ballet dancer performs quite tough 32 entrechats six in the second act of Giselle.
Ballet is a highly technical form of dance with its origins in the Italian Renaissance court, where it emerged in the late 15th century as a dance interpretation of fencing. Later ballet was developed into a very complicated dance works with mime, acting and other components that are set to music. Ballet has graceful, flowing and very precise movements with almost ethereal qualities.